Implementing lean manufacturing with simulation

Introducing a lean approach to a manufacturing process can have an immediate, positive impact on efficiency, productivity and profit.

Lean principles and simulation software together provide the ability to quickly experiment with different process improvement options, and pinpoint approaches that will most effectively reduce waste and create a process that adds value to the customer.

What is lean manufacturing?

Lean manufacturing definition

Lean manufacturing is a systematic method for the elimination of waste within a manufacturing process. Lean considers waste created through overburden and unevenness in workloads. This is considered from the perspective of the client who consumes the product or service, "value" is any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for.

Essentially, lean is centered on making obvious what adds value by reducing everything else. Lean manufacturing is a management philosophy derived mostly Toyota and their way of working to remove waste and improve customer value. Exactly what value means will be different depending on your process and customer but can involve looking at key performance indicators such as, throughput, productivity, cost, amount of work in progress.

Lean manufacturing principles - elimination of waste (Muda)

Muda is defined as anything that does not add value – this could include operations that your customer would not be happy to pay for and add no value to the product or service that you provide.

Waste can include factors which might not usually be usually be thought of as waste including as overproduction, high levels of inventory, items which need to be reworked, processing or waiting times and unnecessary movement.

The seven wastes in lean manufacturing:

  • Transport
  • Inventory
  • Motion
  • Waiting
  • Over-processing
  • Overproduction
  • Defects

The implementation of lean manufacturing through trying to make value flow at the pull of the customer (Just-In-Time) prevents and eliminates waste in your processes.

Changes to manufacturing processes that can be considered to reduce waste include:

  • Leveling production to match demand
  • Reducing end-to-end cycle time to less than customer's expectation of reasonable wait time
  • Using Just-in-Time delivery schedules with suppliers
  • Monitoring quality in a responsive manner
  • Properly fixing all problems at the source and accepting the higher short term cost of doing this
  • Reducing change over time so that batch sizes can be reduced cost effectively
  • Empowering and training employees to participate in continuous improvement and increasing communication and visibility to make this easy for them

In order to completely eliminate waste, all of these process changes should be considered together – but with a wide range of parameters to consider (e.g. batch sizes, J-i-T schedules, acceptable cycles times, Kanban quantities, container sizes), making these changes without effecting other processes or adding other forms of waste can be difficult.

How can simulation support lean manufacturing techniques?

Discrete event simulation software, like SIMUL8, can show accurately how a process will behave, both before and after implementing a lean manufacturing approach. This means you can get lean implementation right-first-time.

Simulating processes gives manufacturers a real advantage. Being able to present a dynamic and animated display of processes is a very powerful way of highlighting constraints in a system and is very effective in building buy-in for both operational and managerial staff to recognize the need for change.

Whether your simulation is showing a large queue building-up, or a series of activities grinding to a halt due to a lack of stock, nothing is more effective at communicating these types of issues than letting stakeholders see this happening for themselves.

Discrete event simulation software enables the implementation and monitoring of lean manufacturing processes, providing you with:

  • An accurate prediction of likely cost savings of introducing lean to manufacturing process
  • A detailed understanding of exactly how the parameters impact overall performance
  • The ability to test any number of combinations of parameter values and decide which are best for your implementation
  • Accurate predictions of the speed of response your customers will see
  • A quick and easy-to-run device for obtaining buy-in from senior management or training employees
  • A tool for empowering employees by allowing their process improvement ideas to be tested with easy-to-understand visual and numerical feedback on its effectiveness


5 Ways Simulation Can Drive your Lean Projects

From initial buy in to assessing your return on investment learn the five reasons why simulation is a great tool to drive lean projects across your organization.

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"SIMUL8 gave us a technical way of understanding capacity, identifying bottlenecks and changing data to achieve new capacities, new goals and new logics. We never had this ability before."

Ricardo Fernandes, GPS Lead and Planning Specialist, FMC Technologies

Further resources


Leading Successful Manufacturing Projects

Brian Harrington, a former Ford Motor Company employee and SIMUL8 user of 20 years discusses why simulation is such a useful tool to ensure the success of a project when time, cost and quality are all competing objectives.

Read whitepaper

Know the value of non-value add

Lean Manufacturing is much more than just addressing “non-value added buffers”. There are several other important factors within a true lean system. In this article we point out one of the most common errors that occurs when companies attempt to become lean overnight.

Read the blog post
More Reading

Six Sigma process simulation with SIMUL8

With simulation you can create a realistic representation of your system and carry out “what if” analysis, so that you can be sure your improvement ideas will have the desired effect of eliminating defects, reduce costs and increase profit.

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